By Jessica Hurst
Of The New Era 

Hard work, vision result in local family being named Tree Farmers of the Year


July 18, 2017

JOE HOLMBERG, right, presents the Tree Farmers of the Year plaque to the Wolthuis family, from left, Brad, Jenna, Sean, Mark, Ivan and Rebecca.

Ivan and Rebecca Wolthuis transformed fields that were once the Sweet Home Mud Fest site into what is now a thriving tree farm.

In recognition of their efforts, the Oregon Small Woodlands Association has named them 2017 Linn County Small Tree Farmers of the Year. The award was presented by Joe Holmberg of Lebanon, who with his wife Shirley were last year’s county winners. Joe Holmberg is the county OSWA Tree Farmer of the Year Committee chair.

The Wolthuis family’s tree farm is located on Berlin Road where the Mud Fest took place from 2001 to 2009.

Ivan, a Sweet Home dentist, has tree farming in his blood. He helped his parents plant their 120-acre tree farm on Wiley Creek in the 1970s.

Dr. Henry Wolthuis and Mollie Wolthuis were named Linn County Tree Farmers of the Year in 2011

Tree farming was new to Rebecca, who grew up in Minnesota, she said.

“They taught me how to use a chainsaw the first time I came out to meet the family.”

When the younger Wolthuises bought their 166 acres in 2010, the land mainly consisted of compacted fields, they said. Because the property had not been replanted by the previous owners, it was in violation of the Farm Forest Deferral assessment it was listed under, which requires that it be “used for the prominent purpose of growing and harvesting trees of a marketable species.”

Ivan said the main challenge was getting the land out of violation of the Farm Forest Deferral. Because the land had not been replanted, blackberries and big leaf maple had taken over, he said.

“It took lots of aerial spraying and hand work to allow the forest to be re-established.”

Because the ground was so compacted from the mud the ground was ripped 3 feet deep in 10-foot rows. According to Ivan, their first attempt failed because the ground was too hard for the tractor they used. A bigger tractor got the job done.

The Wolthuises contracted with Cascade Timber Consulting, which planted approximately 45,000 Douglas-fir in the ripped rows in January and February 2011.

Since then, the family has worked to control brush and maples, applied bud caps to young trees, pruned trees, cleaned up old farm fencing and restored a spring on the land.

“We’ve worked lots of weekends and evenings.” Rebecca said.

The Wolthuises are certified through the American Tree Farm System, which certifies sustainable farming practices, educates tree farmers and recognizes success in the industry.

The Oregon Small Woodlands Association values wood production, protection of water resources and wildlife and recreational use in small woodlands.

The association hosted a tour of the tree farm on July 8. Participants were able to walk or ride in the trailer around the farm and discuss the history of the property and strategies the couple has used to establish the trees.

OSU Forestry Extension Agent Brad Withraw also accompanied the tour and discussed thinning techniques, wildlife habitat and forest diversity.

“We were surprised, honored, with a sense of obligation to make sure everything is done right,” Rebecca said of the award.

IVAN WOLTHUIS demonstrates how he uses a log skidded on the back of a tractor to maneuver logs as a method of thinning trees.


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